Kieran and Jean are, ultimately, doomed.
Or at least that's what Cherry tells him, popping bubblegum next to Kieran's ear and twining rough fingers around his cigarette to flick it to the ground, giving him a friendly smack to the shoulder in reprimand.
"You gotta find someone else," she urges, jostling her body alongside his, but Kieran just shoots her a wry smile and hums an empty assent.
Jean is the boy who gets drunk too much and knows way too much about stars.
He hangs out around the English majors the most, the ones who do creative writing but mostly poetry. They like him. He knows how to entice them, the things they find interesting about the sciences and the explanations of the inner workings of nebulas.
Kieran's a poli-sci student to a T, some philosophy and a weird class taught by Professor Wilkins that nobody really knows the premise of on the side. With shaggy brown hair and a winning smile, most people don't like or dislike him, but most people find him attractive.
... although they'd be mad to try.
With cropped black hair and a cappuccino complexion, Jean is unconventionally pretty with his skinny jeans and thin shirts, slinging his arm around Kieran's shoulders possessively and giving people grins more akin to a sharp mouthful of shark-teeth.
He has a couple friends, frail boys and tough girls, and they clump together defensively whenever in public, although he most often splits off to press a kiss to his- what? Friend with benefits? Date-mate? Boyfriend?
Neither of them know, so Jean just murmurs "Babe," into his cheek and runs off with a graze of a touch to the back of his neck.
They won't last, that much is sure, but this is university. They've got student loans up to their ears, stress showing in trembling hands and the bare minimum of sleep. There isn't enough time for anything but trying to make failed love work, and that's what they're gonna do.
Kieran gets a call.
He sucks in a breath from where he's lying naked next to Jean, skin pressed from shoulder to toe with the other boy, and pushes away from him. The twin bed creaks underneath him as he peels himself away, out of the tangle they had to improvise to fit them both on the mattress.
"I need to go," he says, face pale and drained of color, and Jean pushes himself up on his elbows, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He opens his mouth to say something, but the words catch in his throat and he keeps silent.
Kieran throws on a shirt and sweatpants that most likely belong to the current occupant of the bed, and is gone in the next second, sweeping out the door without a backwards glance.
Jean stares at the ceiling, rolls over, and tries to fall back asleep.
"My sister's gone," Kieran says the next time they lay together, the words big and loud and almost oppressive in the quiet room.
Jean snuffles a little, but gives no other sign that he's awake. He pretends to continue to sleep, like Kieran thinks he is.
The space around them lapses back into silence.
Cherry snaps her bubble viciously, pulls the gum back in-between her teeth and chews furiously, sliding a hand to the back of Kieran's neck.
"This won't work," she warns, "Don't tell him. Don't get answers you don't want to get."
Kieran just sighs, tilts his head back and stares at the library ceiling, breath heavy with black coffee. "I don't know," he tells her, and the reply doesn't make any sense.
Somehow, she gets it anyways.
He doesn't listen, even though he knows she's right. Late at night, when Jean slides into bed beside him, reeking of cheap beer and shitty vodka, Kieran turns to face him and murmurs, "I love you."
Jean looks at him for a moment, and doesn't hesitate before he tells him plainly, "I don't."
Then he lets his head hit the pillow and is out like a light.
Kieran doesn't sleep that night.
They fuck, then.
They've done a lot of things, but they've never actually fucked. Not properly.
Jean's drunk out of his mind, Kieran's out of his mind in love, and they're both compromised and they're both falling apart. They fuck and they stare at each other afterwards and Jean sighs and pushes himself up out of bed, is careful to pull on his own clothes, and pushes his hair flat.
He pauses at the door, but doesn't turn around. A thin exhale, air almost whistling out of his throat, and then he's pulling the door shut behind him and he's gone.
They don't mention it the next day.
They stop sleeping together.
If you didn't know better, and even if you did, then it would look like they've never met each other. Never seen each other before.
They pass the other and don't even blink. Jean stops drinking, which somehow makes him decline even more sharply, and he's a little hollow now. If you knocked he'd ring silver.
Kieran smokes more. He doesn't talk as much. He pulls in on himself like a dying star, his own gravity tearing him apart until he is only a shaky black hole visible only by the absence of light around him.
Cherry pops her bubblegum and says, "I was right," to the empty seat beside her.